Bobst Boy get dorm
April 26, 2004 8:36 PM   Subscribe

Bobst Boy gets evicted. Sort of. Steve Stanzak is an NYU sophomore who supplemented his living expenses by living in the Bosbt Library. Stanzak has been blogging about this, and after his weblogging was discovered by NYU administrators, he was given housing for the remainder of the year.
posted by XQUZYPHYR (40 comments total)
I'm an NYU grad, so this entire story amazes me. Bobst is cavernous building- a giant brick 12-story cube just South of Washington Square Park. The floors all wrap around the exterior side, making the place almost cathedral-like. Even more eerie is that last year Bobst was tragically marked by two student suicides, both from leaping off the library balconies. (Stanzak "lived" at Bobst during both suicides but was at work when they both occurred.) It's open 24 hours and has internet terminals, so what was merely deemed as feasible has officially become reality.

As an NYU student, I can also attest to the difficulty of the Financial Aid office, and the insane expense of the school. I'm on his side in defending the silliness of the "why not not go to NYU" question.

Apparently the WSN story is just the start; the story will make the NY Times and the NY Post in the next day or two, and Stanzak is apparently writing a book about all this.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:44 PM on April 26, 2004

What a lucky guy. I bet they'll give him enough aid now--The administration comes off looking like princes.
posted by amberglow at 8:49 PM on April 26, 2004

Not to be too skeptical, but the guy managed to find money to register a domain name, pay for hosting (including an upgrade when the traffic exceeded his bandwidth) and have a paid Livejournal account, but he can't find money to live on? He owns a laptop computer, but has nowhere to live? Perhaps an examination of priorities is due here?
posted by dg at 8:50 PM on April 26, 2004

Well, it's no fun to be the "Bobst guy" who lives in a dorm but types all his papers in the library, now is it?
posted by rafter at 8:55 PM on April 26, 2004

dg, there's more! You missed the desktop computer he has in his storage closet. It sucks to have to use the "shitty laptop!"

I feel for this guy (as I suppose most not-filthy-rich college students do), but come on now.
posted by rafter at 8:59 PM on April 26, 2004

Whoa. This kid is in one of my classes (I think -- hard to tell with the sleep-mask on). Craziness!
posted by logovisual at 9:08 PM on April 26, 2004

Yep, it's him. Anybody got any questions for me to ask him in class tomorrow?

The Washington Square News reporter he complains about on his LJ is in one of my other classes. Interesting.
posted by logovisual at 9:13 PM on April 26, 2004

dg -- the website is apparently co-administered by his boyfriend, who it's reasonable to assume paid for it. As for the computer, it's pretty fucking difficult to not have a computer at this school, and we can also assume it was bought at the start of his college career, when the first set of loans came in.
posted by logovisual at 9:17 PM on April 26, 2004

Adding to logovisual's comment after preview:

Whoa now. dg and rafter, college doesn't work like that. Domain name, hosting (even upgraded), and an LJ account are all cheap. Nothing like the thousands of dollars that one has to pay even after financial aid.

A laptop and a desktop are necessary items these days in college. He's probably had those since before he was enrolled, and selling them off won't do much.
posted by bitpart at 9:19 PM on April 26, 2004

and Stanzak is apparently writing a book about all this.

Didn't someone already (almost) do just that?

$10 says he read the book as a kid.
posted by weston at 9:37 PM on April 26, 2004

(logovisual, will you ask him if he did?)
posted by weston at 9:38 PM on April 26, 2004

Domain name, hosting (even upgraded), and an LJ account are all cheap. Nothing like the thousands of dollars that one has to pay even after financial aid.

But even frivolous costs add up, don't they? I realize dorm costs (the only expense he is really forgoing) are in the several-thousand range, but dg was trying to say it's a matter of priorities.

A laptop and a desktop are necessary items these days in college.

I hope you don't really mean a laptop and desktop.
While, if he owned them before, I can see it somewhat, the point stands that Bobst is filled with computers. I understand your point of view that having a computer is a great boon in college (I get certainly get a lot of mileage out of the one in front of me), but I know someone here (Brown) who has never owned a computer in his life and gets by just fine at the library. Likewise, most of my friends do all their academic work on library computers.

I don't mean to be so harsh as I sound, though. It is clever and interesting, and saving a few thousand dollars is nothing to be scoffed at. I just feel like there may have been at least as much stunt as there was necessity here.
posted by rafter at 9:38 PM on April 26, 2004

There were rumors of "some guy" who did this at my college library, where a person could rent a decent-sized locker for $5/quarter, sleep in the stacks, and shower at the gym. Speaking of which, this kid seems to write a lot about not being able to shower. Does NYU not have a gym?
posted by bonheur at 9:39 PM on April 26, 2004

There was rumored to be a guy who did this at UI - Urbana for several years. There are about a hundred little offices for grad students to use in the main stacks. Only a few are in use now and most of those have paper over the windows to ensure privacy. It probably wouldn't be that hard to do. Supposedly, this guy somehow managed to get a key to one of the alternative entrances to the stacks so he wasn't noticed when he left first thing in the morning. He showered at the armory and ate at the Catholic dorm across the street.
posted by jmgorman at 9:51 PM on April 26, 2004

The NYT article is up.
posted by Vidiot at 10:42 PM on April 26, 2004

He made an update to his Livejournal answering some of the questions posed here.
posted by sebas at 11:46 PM on April 26, 2004

I know that the previous posters are just having the gut reaction of thinking "if you own X expensive object, you can't possibly be poor" but if you actually think about it for a minute, owning a computer, or even a computer in a laptop, is nothing compared to the expense of rent. If I lost my funding, I too would own a desktop (bought in my first year, when it was all I could afford) and a laptop (bought this year for research overseas), as well as clothes, books, and even a bit of furniture. All of which would probably sell for $500, and then I wouldn't be able to do my work (ever tried storing a database on a public terminal?). And I would still be homeless.

This is just a basic fact about poverty (which I have both experienced, and now study professionally) - costs like food and rent will out weigh almost any single item you can put in a house, most of which would be worth very little when sold second hand. While it makes sense to be frugal when you are poor in what you choose to purchase now, people often have changing circumstances. Someone who purchases a computer can be laid off a few months later. Would you have people liquidate their assets to no purpose?

The very strange thing is I was just wandering my graduate school building, which doubles as a residence, and thinking that a grad student could probably live in the labyrinthine basement here with no one the wiser - they would even be able to use the showers, though someone might suspect.
posted by jb at 12:12 AM on April 27, 2004

Not to be too skeptical, but the guy managed to find money to register a domain name, pay for hosting (including an upgrade when the traffic exceeded his bandwidth) and have a paid Livejournal account, but he can't find money to live on? He owns a laptop computer, but has nowhere to live? Perhaps an examination of priorities is due here?

You can get a domain name for $7, web hosting can be as cheap as $5 - $10 a month and he's probably had the laptop. Paying for that sort of stuff is in a totally different league than the $15,000 it costs for room & board at NYU.
posted by tomorama at 12:23 AM on April 27, 2004

Sorry - just to add: considering that his residence cost was $10,980, for presumably 9 months, that would make his monthly rent about $1220. That is twice as expensive as the dormitory rent I paid for two rooms to myself in my dorm last year. For just the monthly fee alone, you would pay 1.4 times the entire cost of my laptop, or 2.4 times the cost of my desktop.

Wow. New York scares me now. No wonder my friend turned down the generous graduate scholarship there, saying it still wouldn't cover the cost of living.

No offense to New Yorkers meant - it's a lovely insanely expensive city
posted by jb at 12:25 AM on April 27, 2004

I can completely identify with this guy. The same thing happened to me back in 1978 when I was at University in Boston. I was on full scholarship but Financial Aid wouldn't release my living costs funds and I had already started the semester in a special, high powered program that I didn't want to abandon. So I spent most of my time in the library, slept at friend's dorms in a rotation schedule until they got irked by it, and wound up sleeping in a park along the Charles river or in a doorway behind the library when it started getting cold (there was a heating grate.) I nicked food from the university cafeterias and washed in the bathrooms at the sports center. I stole textbooks from the University bookstore and resold them for cash. I eventually had to give up and leave that year because I couldn't make it through the winter without a place to stay. And we didn't even call it homeless back then.
posted by zaelic at 3:13 AM on April 27, 2004 [1 favorite]

Also, the NY Times story.
posted by armage at 6:54 AM on April 27, 2004

considering that his residence cost was $10,980, for presumably 9 months, that would make his monthly rent about $1220

...and that's more than I pay for a nice 1-bedroom with a backyard, in Astoria. I mean, it's a bit of a commute from the 8th Street stop, but still.
posted by Vidiot at 6:57 AM on April 27, 2004

zaelic, if you're talking about UMass Boston, I'd considered doing the same thing. And jb, Boston is also a lovely, insanely expensive city. Too bad the two greatest cities on the east coast also have some of the highest costs of living.
posted by bitpart at 7:34 AM on April 27, 2004

Steve explains why he is able to pay for what he has.

And bashes MeFi while he's at it. But really, he (you, if you're reading this) builds a strawman of Metafilter as this oppressive elitist body of people. Keep in mind that not everyone agrees with every post, and that each post is the opinion of one person, not all.

I feel his pain, though. I graduated from NYU, and I'm willing to bet that I was as bad off financially as he was. It did indeed suck having classes and then working 30-40ish hours per week and still not having money to spend. I also know of at least one other person that did the same as he was doing: lived in Bobst, showered in Coles, occasionally slept with friends (though rarely, due to NYU's draconian guest policy).

NYU's housing costs are completely ridiculous, and I can't fathom why so many NYU students (well, maybe because they're generally middle-to-upper class kids that want to live in the village) put up with them. I moved to Brooklyn the first chance I got, more than halved the monthly amount I was spending on rent, and never looked back.
posted by The Michael The at 7:40 AM on April 27, 2004

During high school a friend of mine spent the majority of his four years living in the student lounge. Because it was a private school and he was on staff at the paper, security would allow him to stay late in the buildings. After security did a last "day sweep," he would simply go to sleep on the couches in the student lounge. We had several gyms where he could shower and use a locker for storing clothes. And meals, including breakfast, were included with tuition. ( My friend Matt "lived" at school not because of expenses-he was on full scholarship there-but because his father was physically abusive.) In my many years at NYU I know of quite a few students who were "homeless". (My roommate's boyfriend, for example, who would often spend six weeks at a time in our dorm room until the dorm "authorities" insisted he had overstayed his welcome.) I tend the think this type of thing happens a great deal, it's just rarely documented.
posted by miss-lapin at 7:51 AM on April 27, 2004 [1 favorite]

This is usually a big problem with any school. When you ask how you're going to afford tuition they give you a big song and dance about that F.A.F.S.A. and how the government evaluate how much you can afford to pay and make up the difference with grants and loans. However, they always leave out the part where room & board is not included in any of these equations.
posted by tomorama at 9:45 AM on April 27, 2004

And bashes MeFi while he's at it.

All he really does is state fact. People on mefi are criticizing him and he can't respond here because he doesn't have an account. How is that bashing?
posted by Hackworth at 10:15 AM on April 27, 2004

Okay, point retracted. Some of the comments, such as:

nevermind the cunts at metafi.....

are indeed incendiary, but what he himself wrote is fine. Considering that I'm sympathetic to him, however, I took umbrage at the phrasing of "the people of metafilter."
posted by The Michael The at 10:27 AM on April 27, 2004

TMT: Considering that you're sympathetic to him, you might be a little more sympathetic to how someone in his position would feel on reading a bunch of people bashing him at some site where he can't respond. Do you really think if you were in his shoes you'd think "Well, now, some people at this site aren't being very nice, but I'm sure if I spent a while reading the archives I'd discover that there's an interesting mix of people, some of whom are quite intelligent..." Nah, I think you'd get pissed off at MetaFilter. Why not? We do, and we can post and everything.

I'm just glad I went to college in the '60s, when you didn't have to mortgage your future (or live in a subbasement).
posted by languagehat at 12:50 PM on April 27, 2004

I apologized to him in class today on behalf of the larger MeFi community. He seemed frazzled.
posted by logovisual at 12:57 PM on April 27, 2004

Too bad the two greatest cities on the east coast also have some of the highest costs of living.

What an odd coincidence!
posted by timeistight at 12:58 PM on April 27, 2004

Having been been both a college student and homeless, I can sympathize -- to a point. I was never a college student and homeless at the same time, because I considered housing and feeding myself priority 1.

The fact is that there are lots of programs out there to help house and feed the homeless. Before I returned to Cornell, I got on welfare, food stamps, section 8 housing assistance, stayed in shelters, and went to soup kitchens for almost every meal. Granted, I doubt section 8 would be willing to pay for a loft in the village, but I can't imagine they wouldn't help him find a place within reasonable proximity to NYU.

Sure, its alot of red tape and B.S, but sometimes in life you have to put up with that. I also realize that he probably considers this just an undergraduate 'adventure' - which is how I couch my own experience - but there are plenty of resources out there. There isn't any reason that with a little hard work and lots of form-filling-out he shouldn't be able to finish his studies.

For awhile I didn't consider myself 'homeless' because I go to college or come from a nice home or whatever, but at some point its time to suck it up, go over to DSS and call a duck a duck. He may be in the same boat.
posted by ChasFile at 1:04 PM on April 27, 2004

Yea and of course with section 8 all you need to do is walk in off the street and they bend over backwards to get you housing the same day. It's amazing!

Having been homeless myself I have to laugh my ass off at your comments ChasFile.
posted by filchyboy at 4:14 PM on April 27, 2004

There comes a point in every person's life when they realize that the state school or living at home and commuting to the local college can be just as useful, in the long run, as a "big name" school. Every person has their own limits, but I can fairly say that mine would be the eighth consecutive day of showering and sleeping in a public place.
posted by Dreama at 5:35 PM on April 27, 2004

Huh. I guess I never reached that inevitable point in my life. In fact, I went to a state school near home first, wasn't crazy about it, and did graduate studies at a big-name school far away.

I did live in a pretty nice freshman dorm, though.
posted by bingo at 7:03 PM on April 27, 2004

The story crosses the Atlantic. On the 8.00 news on Radio 4 this morning.
posted by rory at 8:28 AM on April 28, 2004

When i was at NYU in the late '90s, there were several situations where i, also, slept a few nights on the A-Level of Bobst. none of them were particularly crisis-level maneuvers -- more of the roomate had a tie on the doorknob variety, or at the worst i had an early class and the N train wasn't running to Astoria or the like.

but what surprises me is that each time i did so, i felt i was on the run from the guards. bobst is a big building, but only the bottom two levels are open all night and while you can surely spend a few wee hours hidden back among the rows of study carrols, i got woken up several times by guards advising me that i could rest for a spell but if they caught me really sleeping for any length of time, they'd turn me out.

8 months? he must have had some kind of special arrangement with somebody at the library to lubricate it.
posted by milkman at 10:47 AM on April 28, 2004

Brings me back to the time I slept for a few weeks in the mathematics society library in Trinity College Dublin. Good times, although the cleaning staff didn't see it the same way.
posted by meehawl at 10:59 AM on April 29, 2004

And of course, in TCD there were also the East Euro chem and physics grad students, many of whom were paid buttons and lived in the 120-year-old science buildings attics for much of the year. Seeing them shuffling around labs in the morning, bleary-eyed and pretending they had just arrived, was always a little disconcerting.
posted by meehawl at 11:08 AM on April 29, 2004

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